It's solid info like this (reg. req'd.) that reinforces my long-held contention -- now generally accepted wisdom by everybody but the Harper government -- that investing in women is just plain good business.
Those folks at McKinsey are not exactly lefties. Indeed, corporations hire their people at mind-boggling rates just to take advantage of their expertise.
Which is why, when they say something about economic growth, it's worth paying attention.
Here's the gist of their latest intel:
Few companies make social investments specifically aimed at empowering women in developing economies, but we believe that supporting this goal is good business and good practice for all companies. In the course of our work, we’ve uncovered a startlingly wide range of ways in which private-sector companies can offer sizable economic benefits not only to women and their societies but also to the companies themselves. The benefits to businesses come from enlarging their markets, improving the quality or size of their current and potential workforce (for instance, by attracting talent globally), and maintaining or improving their reputations.
Women in developing economies are hampered by many of the same concerns that face women in other countries, but they also deal with a number of additional barriers to economic security. In some cases, these problems are straightforward—girls getting less food and education than boys, for example. In others, they are as complicated as the difficulty women in many countries have in keeping control over money they may earn (because of regulations or long-standing cultural traditions that prevent them from having secure access to bank accounts), owning property, or acquiring loans.
Women’s unfulfilled potential significantly hinders economic growth. One recent study, for example, estimates that lower education and employment rates for women and girls are responsible for as much as a 1.6 percentage point difference in annual GDP growth between South Asia and East Asia. On the other hand, educated, income-earning women are especially powerful catalysts for development because they tend to invest more of their money in their families’ health, education, and well-being than men do.
Now pay extra special attention to this bit:
Nevertheless, only 19 percent of the respondents to a recent McKinsey Quarterly survey said that their companies had invested in economic-development activities specifically aimed at women in developing markets. Yet 83 percent said that economic growth there was at least somewhat important to their companies’ success over the next ten years.
Now, let me ask you, how freaking stupid is that? What do these companies expect? To expand their markets in countries where women have no money to spend on their products?
Why yes. That's exactly right.
Companies whose social investments do focus on women in developing economies, the survey and our other research show, benefit not only women and their societies but also themselves. Among survey respondents, 34 percent say that such investments have already improved profits, and a further 38 percent expect them to do so.
It's stuff like this that made me roll my eyes when I was getting my MBA.